Start-up Spotlight – Phrasee: Become a subject line super hero

Phrasee generates machine-optimised email subject lines that get you more opens

Founders: Parry Malm (CEO), Neil Yager (CTO), Victoria Peppiatt (COO)
Launched: February 2015
Headquarters: London, UK
Staff: 6 (incl. founders) plus a bunch of freelancers
Funding: Self
Twitter: @Phrasee


1. Please describe your tech.

Phrasee generates machine-optimised subject lines. It will turn you into a subject line superhero.

2. What problem does your tech solve for marketers?

Email marketers love split testing subject lines… but few are able to think of good variants and then learn from results. Phrasee automates and optimises this process for you.
First, Phrasee generates human-sounding subject lines using natural language processing algorithms. You then upload your results and Phrasee uses machine learning to understand what gets response from your audience. The more you use Phrasee, the better your emails get, and the more awesome your life becomes. Well, at least the email marketing part of your life.

3. What sectors will your tech disrupt?

Our company vision is: “To be the creative brain behind the programmatic revolution.”

There are hundreds of tools out there that tell you how to test things online. Phrasee tells you what to test. Today we’re focusing on email subject lines. In the future, Phrasee design experiments for you across every online marketing channel imaginable.

4. What inspired you to start the business?

We believe that there is a science to email subject lines. And that the available tools to help with subject lines sucked. So we thought, hey, what if we could build something that’s awesome, doesn’t suck, and helps people optimise their online marketing? So we built that. It’s called Phrasee.

5. Who are your competitors?

Currently there is no other SaaS platform like ours on the planet. We are unique in the marketplace. Until someone tries to develop a derivative product, which, by the way, won’t be anywhere near as awesome as Phrasee.

6. What challenges do you face?

Some people don’t believe that machine-optimised subject lines can outperform their own. Or, should I say, are unwilling to believe.

Listen, it’s like this: if you are precious about your own words being used in your emails then Phrasee’s not for you.

You should only use Phrasee if you care about getting more opens, clicks and conversions.

7. How do you plan to fund the business?

Can I borrow £50m? Haha. For the time being we’re committed to self-funding through customer revenue. I suspect in 6-12 months we’ll start looking at external investment. Right now we are focusing on building software that helps awesome marketers become even more awesome… not software that grows VC balance sheets.

8. Where do you think your business will be in 5 years?

Phrasee will optimise every marketing channel imaginable. From emails, to landing pages, to tweets, to Facebook ads, through to image optimisation… and all points between. Multivariate testing will remain the best way to learn about your audience. Phrasee will become how you optimise your experimental process.

9. What are your predictions for the tech market?

Marketing technology has consolidated into many large, omnichannel platforms. This results in a slow speed to market for new features. I expect more business models like Phrasee’s – that is, platform-agnostic bolt-ons to existing tech – to thrive and deliver amazing value to marketers around the world.

10. What is the best advice you’ve ever received, who gave it to you and what advice do you have for others in your position?

When I told my parents I was launching Phrasee, my mom told me: “Never let anyone tell you what you’re doing will fail.” And my dad, a lifelong inventor and entrepreneur, told me, “Don’t take crap from anyone.”

Other than them, my favourite quote of all time is from Canadian Jesus, aka Wayne Gretzky: “You don’t score on 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

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Lara Doyle

Lara Doyle

Senior Content Manager, TFM Insights

Lara Doyle is Senior Content Manager at UBM EMEA, Tech a global events business, and covers Technology for Marketing, eCommerce Expo and London Technology Week.

April 1, 2015

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